Betrayed

We’ve all been let down. People close to us have hurt us. We’ve been disappointed by those we thought we could depend upon.

Have you ever come to a moment of great need and found yourself alone? Have you had to face trials on your own while those who have previously pledged their friendship and loyalty have scattered?

That’s the kind of thing we remember on Good Friday. Imagine facing the following scenario on your own.

So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.

And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him. – Mark 15:15-20

The most amazing thing in all of this is that amidst the torture, the pain, the horror of a barbaric death, Jesus was thinking of others. He even prayed for forgiveness for those who had caused his pain. I don’t know about you but I tend to get angry when someone causes me pain or discomfort. I can forgive them later, but at the time I can get pretty annoyed. Jesus was still in the middle of being tortured to death while he was offering forgiveness. Makes the ‘injustices’ I suffer seem fairly inconsequential.

Incredibly, he even promised forgiveness to a common criminal who was suffering the same fate that he was. There were two criminals being slaughtered alongside Jesus. One hurled insults. One asked to be remembered by Jesus. The one who asked to be remembered could see beyond the grave. He could see that death was not the end. He talked about Christ entering his kingdom. Jesus promised him a direct trip to paradise.

A lot of pictures that depict the life of Jesus show him as an otherworldly kind of figure, detached from the worries of our day to day lives. It’s good to remind ourselves that he knew what it was like to suffer pain and betrayal of the worst possible kind.

Even if you’re the kind of person who really can’t identify with Jesus, it may help you to remember that he can certainly identify with us and everything we’re facing.

The greatest news is that the betrayal and suffering of Good Friday was not the end. Sunday was coming; a day that would change our world forever.

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Well, that was weird

I was ushered into an incredibly bright room and removed my clothing … well most of it. The fact that the doctor that I had only just met was very good at creating friendly conversation didn’t make it feel any less awkward.

I lay on the examination table while he used even brighter lights to examine every millimetre of my skin. In his hand was a camera that he would hold above any spots or marks that he wanted to see more clearly. Those tiny spots would then be greatly magnified and displayed in living colour across his supersized flat screen TV.

Approximately, two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they are 70, with more than 750,000 people treated for one or more non-melanoma skin cancers in Australia each year. Non-melanoma skin cancer is more common in men, with almost double the incidence compared to women. – Cancer Council

After asking me about a small, scaly piece of skin on my left forearm, the doctor grabbed his liquid nitrogen to freeze and destroy a small keratosis. It was harmless but left too long it could have developed into something very serious.

Apart from that one small issue I was given the all clear.

What a sense of relief.

Until that point I had no idea if I had anything lurking on my skin that could do me immense harm or even take my life, yet still I had never taken the time to get a skin cancer check. I always knew that I should but just didn’t.

I must admit that the weirdness of stripping down and having someone getting that close and personal was a bit of a demotivater. Even the thought that there could have been something, that left unattended, could kill me, failed to fully motivate me to get checked out. I didn’t want my body to be put under the bright, unflattering lights of the skin clinic.

It probably won’t surprise you that it was actually my wife who made the appointment for me. Of course she asked if that was OK but it was her initiative.

So here I am, a 53 year old Australian male who spends a fair bit of time cycling around with exposed skin, avoiding the opportunity to have someone examine me thoroughly. Talk about ridiculous. While I was busy avoiding my own embarrassment, there could have been something silently killing me.

I think many of us live our lives like that. We avoid the kind of examination that could save our lives.

There are often actions, thoughts and habits in our lives that we try to ignore because we don’t want to have to deal with what might really be happening. We don’t want to be put under the light even though that kind of examination could save our lives.

For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. – John 3:20

I had a keratosis that could have developed into something worse but by being put under the harsh white light of the examination room, it’s now dealt with and I can get on with life. Am I prepared to put the rest of my life under that kind of scrutiny, knowing that I’ll be able to have someone deal with whatever they find or will I stubbornly continue with that constant, low-level sense that things are not quite right.

If skin cancer is left untreated too long, you’ll eventually know it’s there … and not in a good way. If those areas of our lives that don’t measure up are left without examination, they’ll eventually come to light … and certainly not in a good way.

For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light. – Luke 8:17

The true story of Easter is that God not only wants to examine our lives but to deal with those issues that can bring our destruction. He has offered a way to be rid of whatever entangles us through the life, death and resurrection of His son Jesus.

Easter tells us that our past doesn’t have to determine our future.

What the Bible calls sin, our desire to live contrary to God’s direction for our lives, has consequences.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6:23

The free gift we are offered from God means that whatever our past holds, it can be dealt with completely through the death and resurrection of Jesus. And Easter isn’t just about cancelling the debt of sin, it’s about restoring relationship with the one who created the universe. Rather than seeing God as an old man waving his finger at us in disapproval, we get to know God as a friend through Jesus Christ.

That’s why we celebrate Easter. The debt that we’ve incurred can be completely cancelled. Our past can be over, our future can be secure and we can be directly connected to the one who would hold nothing back for us, not even His own son.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

After my initial misgivings, I felt secure letting a doctor shine a light on anything that needed to be treated because I know that he wants to deal with things that could cause me a great deal of harm.

This Easter, maybe it’s time to let God shine a light into your life, knowing that He wants to lovingly and completely deal with things that can cause us ultimate harm.

My prayer is that this will be an Easter that you can truly celebrate.

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Who is the Jesus of Easter?

This is a post that I repeat in the lead up to Easter each year. While most people around us are talking about rabbits and chocolate I think it’s worth taking a little time to look at the true story of Easter. The closest most of us get to the original Easter story is eating hot cross buns.

The bigger story is about the barbaric killing of a man who many millions of people throughout history believe defeated death and walked out of his tomb some days later. That’s extraordinary. Could such a story really be true or has the legend of this man, Jesus, grown over time?

Whether you’re a believer, apathetic or completely opposed to the person of Jesus, you’ve got to admit that his very existence has shaped much of the world. Whether you think that’s a good or bad thing, it’s simply fact.

With that in mind we really should decide for ourselves who Jesus is or was.

There’s an interesting exchange in the Bible about this very thing.

Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?”

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”

I suppose that if we reset the scene in modern times it might look more like:

Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?”

They replied, “Some say you’re a good man; others say a teacher; others say a religious leader; others say a misunderstood man; others say a fictional character; others say an irrelevant historical figure; others say a prophet; others say a bigot; and still others, that you’re a guy who gives us a couple of days off each Easter and at the end of December.”

Then comes the question that should be directed to each one of us.

“But what about you? Who do you say I am?”

Jesus was very wise in the way he asked his question. (After all, he is Jesus.) He says to his disciples, “Firstly let’s clear up what everyone else is saying about me.” It can be very easy for us to parrot someone else’s idea of who Jesus was or is. There are so many options that we can easily pick one that sounds reasonable to us.

But Jesus doesn’t give the disciples that option. After clearing up the range of things that others were saying, he focuses in on the individuals in front of him and says, “But What about you? Who do you say I am?”

I believe he’s doing the same today.

We need to be aware that there are many ideas of who Jesus is but in the end we need to answer that second question for ourselves.

Jesus looks at us all saying “But What about you? Who do you say I am?” Not who do your parents say I am; not who do your workmates say I am; not who does Richard Dawkins say I am; not who do your philosophy books say I am; not who does your pastor say I am; not who does your church say I am, but “Who do you say I am?”

Whether we say we believe the Bible’s idea of who Jesus is or not, we can’t afford to just grab someone else’s ideas on this one. We need to be open enough to have our views challenged. We need to look at how we came to hold the views we do and decide if that’s a good enough reason to think that way.

All the arguments about what people believe about Christians and their views are secondary and irrelevant until we decide what Jesus is about.

If we truly look at the evidence for ourselves and decide that Jesus was just a man we’ve got nothing to lose but if he was who the Bible claims and we don’t acknowledge it, our life could be at stake.

I’m siding with Peter on this one when he answered, “Who do you say I am?” with “The Christ of God.” Exactly what that means for me and the way I live my life is something that I will continue to grapple with for the rest of my life.

Who do you say Jesus is?

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What type of communicator are you?

I recently noticed a friend posting on Facebook about having their typewriter returned after being cleaned and tuned up. I immediately remembered typing lessons in high school when we’d all be sat in front of a typewriter and expected to type in time to the music. That’s if you could really call it music. (Yep, I’m really that old.)

I knew then and there I’d never be a touch typist belting out a hundred words per minute.

Thinking about those days got me wondering about the differences between the trusty typewriter of old and the computers we all use today to communicate.

Have you ever made a mistake while using a manual typewriter?

Once you press your finger down on a key the corresponding typebar flies out of the typebasket towards your piece of paper, connecting with the inked ribbon on the way, to leave a lasting mark on the page. It not only marks the paper with ink, it leaves a permanent impression. The harder you strike the key, the deeper the impact.

There’s no effective ‘backspace’ key on a typewriter if you make a mistake. Even newer typewriters that had erasers could only remove the ink. The indent in the paper remained. Of course you could cover it up with some kind of correction fluid or tape, but even that left a tell tale sign that something wasn’t quite right.

Using a computer keyboard when communicating it becomes all too easy to rush ahead with fingers flying, knowing that we can select whole sections of what we create and then with the press of a button, it’s all gone without a trace. If we want to add an extra word in the middle of the text, we simply drop the cursor where we need it and add whatever we want. It was never that way with a typewriter.

When we combine the ease of throwing some words together with the instant nature of social media, it’s no surprise that careless words find their way into the hearts of those on the receiving end of our communication. A thoughtless comment on social media or a hasty text message can leave a deeper impact on a person than an old typewriter would leave on a page and one that won’t disappear with a bottle of correction fluid.

Typing with a typewriter was a lot more intentional.

With a typewriter you had to structure what you wanted to say before you began striking the keys. You couldn’t just throw some ideas down and then move them around the page.

I don’t want to go back to using a typewriter and lose all the extra functionality that computers afford us, but I do wonder if we’ve lost some of the intentional thought processes we needed in days past.

With a typewriter you feel, see and hear every key stroke yourself before it’s felt, seen and heard by anyone else. Unless you want to waste a lot of paper, you think through what you’re about to communicate when you use a typewriter.

The good news is that we don’t have to go back to using typewriters to communicate well. We can take advantage of everything that newer technology offers while still taking time to think through what we’re trying to say, keeping in mind our intent and the way it will be received. We don’t have to be careless with words. We can choose to consider our communication.

I think there is still great beauty in a classic typewriter but I won’t be rushing to start using one again. I think there’s even greater beauty in continuing to be a thoughtful communicator.

Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. – Proverbs 16:24

What kind of communicator are you?

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Talking about a very big ride

I’ve been on my bike a bit more recently. I need to get fit. There are big plans ahead.

For just over three years I’ve been working for Compassion Australia in our Western Australian office. We run an annual fundraising ride of just over 500 km named Ride for Compassion, but next year we’re taking on a much bigger challenge with a ride from Perth, Western Australia to our head office in Newcastle, New South Wales.

The Ride for Compassion Coast to Coast will be a huge event that will make a major impact for children living in extreme poverty. We’re now at the point of wanting to attract suitable riders and support crew who would be happy to raise significant funds as well as undertake such an epic venture.

The ride will start on Saturday the 15th of September 2018. We will arrive at Compassion’s head office in Newcastle, NSW on Tuesday the 16th of October, having cycled over 4000 km. There’ll be 28 riding days and 4 rest days. The average riding distance for those riding days will be 150 km. Our longest day will be just under 200 km.

I have quite some experience with the ride aspect of the trip having cycled across Australia five times previously but knowing that this time will be in support of Compassion is an extra thrill for me.

I recently had the opportunity to return to my old workplace, Perth’s Christian radio station 98five, and be interviewed by longtime colleague and friend JD, about both our annual ride and next year’s Coast to Coast event.

You can hear our chat by clicking the play button on the audio player below.

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